Happy 4 Years SFTS + A Review of Alihan’s

6 Oct

It’s a big day at SOLE For The Soul!!!  I’ve been keeping this blog for exactly FOUR YEARS today – that’s pretty crazy if you think about it!  We’ve come a long way together, me and you.  We started out trying all the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, talking about sustainability, and going on adventures.  Then, when we started making healthy changes and getting fit together.  I like the new us, don’t you?

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Seriously though, I’m so appreciative of all you guys who consistently come back and check out what I’ve got going on, share my recipes on Pinterest, and stalk my Twitter.  Love you guys! ♥


 

It seems appropriate to get back to our roots on such a big day, so I’m happy to do a little restaurant review today of a new-to-me place called Alihan’s in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.  I didn’t take very many pictures when I was there on Friday night, but that’s because I was busy catching up with my favorite cousin.  We don’t get to see each other very often, so we had plenty to talk about – and wine.  So, yeah.  Little known fun fact about where I’m from (New Castle, PA): it’s an unexpected little pocket of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean culture.  When I’m craving the tastes of home, lamb on the rod is probably the first thing I start talking about so when my cousin found Ailhan’s on Yelp we didn’t hesitate to make a reservation.  (I would strongly suggest making a reservation because they get pretty busy if there’s a show nearby.)

The space is small but charming and not overly kitsch-y.  There is an outdoor patio with a gorgeous view of the Roberto Clemente bridge if you’re into that sort of thang.  The 20 mile an hour winds on Friday didn’t make that very inviting, though!  Inside, there was an unexpected water feature that I was impressed with.  We knew it was BYOB, so we had each brought a bottle of wine and were happy to find out that there is only a single corking fee per table.  We ordered the cold appetizer platter and WOW.  It was basically heaven in my mouth.  From left to right, the plate offered feta, tabbouleh, char-grilled eggplant salad, stuffed grape leaves, yogurt sauce (I didn’t try this), hummus, and baba ghanoush.  Everything was so delish.  The stuffed grape leaves were absolutely perfect, so many places don’t take their time on so they end up rubbery and tasteless.  I was impressed!

Not sure about grape leaves?  I say try them – they are low calorie, high fiber dark veggie that are full of calcium, iron, and vitamins A&K. One cup of grape leaves actually provide you with an entire day’s worth of Vitamin A!  Also, the char-grilled eggplant salad was not something I even thought I would like but I could not stop eating it!  Mixed cold platter for the win guys.

alihans-mixed-cold-appetizers

We decided to split an entree – neither one of us wanted to take home any leftovers since we both had plans for after dinner.  Of course we ordered the lamb shish kebob with white rice.  I’m not going to lie, I am a lamb snob.  I can’t help it, I’ve been eating it all my life and it’s one of my favorite proteins.

alihans-lamb-shish-kebob

This may not look like a very large portion, but the pieces of lamb are bigger than they look.  They use a pepper and tomato marinade before they char-grill this lamb on a rod.  Let’s just say I was kind of regretting the decision to share.  They weren’t over-seasoned, and you could taste the caramelization from the marinade.  They were cooked perfectly with a great char and a tender inside.  The rice was so fresh, we both were surprised at how good it was since it’s kind of an afterthought.  The whole time we just kept saying that we would come back again and again.  I will not be sharing next time, I will say that.

What else can I say?  Our server was helpful, attentive, charming, and knowledgeable (that can make or break a place for me).  It’s right next door to a parking garage, but there is plenty of on-street parking.  And, if you want to know anything else leave me a comment I guess!  As far as I’m concerned, this place is a little hidden gem in downtown Pittsburgh.

Race Recap: Great Race

29 Sep

I don’t even know where to start with this recap other than to say this was such an awesome race!!  I had built this one up so much in my head that I had been nauseous for DAYS, I mean I’d been running but I definitely did not stick to my training plan.  Oopsie?  The night before I tried really hard to just relax, but of course I want to fuss over everything when I’m stressed out.  I ran down to the expo on Saturday and grabbed my bib, I did a few laps around and talked myself down from buying anything because I wanted EVERYTHING.  I did stick around and play with the kitties at the ARL booth and say hi to the Greyhounds.

Great-Race-2014-Expo-Bib

I made sure I ate something carbaliciously familiar the night before and somehow managed to get an awesome night’s sleep.  I woke up at 6:30 and at a pumpkin english muffin (who knew those existed?!) with peanut butter, a bottle of water, and a banana.  Then I paced around my house for several hours.  I finally decided to head to the starting line super early because I thought it would be better to just stretch and people watch.  As soon as I parked my car I realized that my phone armband thing was broken which was soooooooo annoying.  The stupid velcro just came completely off so it wouldn’t stick together anymore.  I guess if something had to go wrong on race day morning, I’m glad it was just that!

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The starting line was insanity.  This was by far the biggest race I’ve ever been to.  The relay didn’t seem crowded to me because I started at an exchange point and the crowd was pretty small.  It looked like this in front and behind me.  I seriously could not stop people watching, I’m such a creeper!  The crowd started slowly walking towards the starting line and I was so so so nervous because this race starts with a hill.  As the people crossed under the start, the tempo picked up a little bit and they were blasting the song “Shout.”  It was seriously the perfect time in the song as I started, the way the crowd was picking up speed at that exact moment – I seriously can’t even explain how awesome that feeling was!  I was totally not nervous anymore and I killed it up the hill.

I felt like I was pacing myself pretty well, which was easy since it was so crowded.  I tried to just find someone who looked experienced and was running around the same pace I wanted to be at, then just tried to stick with them!  That worked like a charm for the first 2.5 miles.  As we got into the Oakland, I was shocked that the first 1/3 of the race went so fast.  I started to struggle around UPMC because I felt like my bladder was about to pop – luckily that’s right where the 5K starting line was so there were bathrooms available.  I seriously wished there had been at least one other bathroom available  before the middle of the race.

The second half of the race was a LOT harder than the first for me.  It was getting really hot and there is not much shade from Oakland until you get downtown.  I made sure to walk through every water station.  The first actual walking break I had to take was right at the mile 5 marker because I started getting a side stitch.  My legs felt like jelly as soon as I started walking so I kept telling myself to push through it because ain’t nobody got time for that.  I think I SPRINTED down the hill on the Boulevard of the Allies and I knew I would be okay when I was still passing people as we pushed into downtown.  I just remember thinking – “OMG, this is the coolest thing EVER!” as I ran into downtown.  That was another big first for me!

As soon as I saw the finish line banner I gave it all I had and finished strong.  I was actually kind of nervous at the mile 6 marker that I would be crawling across the timing mat because I was just so done at that point.  Of course the crowds and the adrenaline wouldn’t let that happen though. :)

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It was really disorientating after the finish line because it was just a massive crowd of confused, tired, sweaty, disoriented zombies wandering around a grassy knoll.  I made a bee-line for the water station, which was really understaffed if you ask me.  All I wanted was a banana and people would. not. move.

Starving

I grabbed 2 bananas and an apple and headed directly for a shady spot closer to the point and away from the crowds.  I just laid there and couldn’t move.  You know I’m just exhausted when there is a squirrel within 15 feet of me and I literally don’t react.  (I do NOT like squirrels.)  I laid in the grass, ate my apple, and listened to my favorite cool down music.  I want to always remember those few minutes and that feeling:

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It was seriously so awesome!  My Garmin said I finished in 1:07:22, but my official time was 1:09:55.  Since this is my first official 10K, I’m considering this my PDR race AND since I ran basically this same distance in the relay in May – it was a PR too!  Just a great day all around and an absolutely awesome race.   Definitely didn’t have the energy for a full smile though!

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I took the shuttle back to the starting line where my car was and I will NEVER do that again.  I underestimated how badly a city bus full of sweaty runners could actually smell.  I will run this race again and again and again though!

 

Mushroom, Bacon, & Leek Risotto

16 Sep

I don’t know what the weather’s been like in your neck of the woods, but it’s been chilly around these parts.  You won’t hear me complain about it, I absolutely love fall!  The colder temperatures make me crave comfort food like no other.  When Kristin over at Iowa Girl Eats posted this recipe, I literally counted down the days until it felt chilly enough to make it.  PLUS, risotto works as a lunch, side dish, or can also stand alone as an entree – that’s what I’m talking about!


Mushroom-Bacon-Leek-Risotto

Mushroom, Bacon, and Leek Risotto

  • 5 c. chicken stock
  • 4 sliced chopped bacon (I used a regular-cut, hickory smoked bacon)
  • 3 small leeks (white and green parts only), chopped
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine (check this out for some advice on picking the best cooking wine)
  • 1 T. fresh thyme
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

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That picture has literally nothing to do with the recipe, but I felt all fancy putting the ingredients in different containers.

First, heat up the chicken stock but keep it simmering on low in a saucepan.  You won’t be using it until later, but make sure it’s ready when you need it.  Prep your bacon too, but chopping it and cooking it in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy.

Crumbled-Bacon

Set it aside to drain on a towel, but reserve 2 T. of the bacon grease.  If you don’t have 2 T. you will need to add in another fat like olive oil to make 2 T. and heat over medium-high along with the mushrooms, leeks, and shallots.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper and cook until the veggies turn a golden brown (about 8 minutes).  Then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about another minute.  Finally, add in the 1 c. of arborio rice and give it a nice good stir to incorporate it in.

 

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Turn the heat down to medium and add in the 1/4 c. of wine. The rice will absorb the wine pretty quickly, and when it does you’re ready to add in that chicken broth.  This is the only part that sucks:  you’re going to have to stir this pretty much constantly for about 25 minutes.  That’s perfect for me because I love to fuss over things on the stove and I can never just leave things alone!

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After 25 minutes, the mixture will be looking nice and thick.  At this point, you should give yourself a pat on the back because you’re freaking awesome.  Then, add in the reserved bacon, thyme, and Parmesan cheese.  Stir it all together until it’s incorporated.  BOOM!  You just made risotto.

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Bacon-Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken Strips

13 Sep

You’re going to want to bookmark, pin, print, or save this one kids.  This is by far one of the easiest recipes I’ve made and I know I will be adding this into my weekly rotation.  It’s also Paleo for all of you cavepeople out there.  Even though my attempt at Paleo ended up as a big faleo, I still found a bunch of recipes I can’t wait to try.


Bacon-Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken Strips (original recipe from Paleo Cupboard)

Bacon-Wrapped-Chicken-Tenders-2

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut lengthwise into strips
  • 6 oz. bacon (I used regular cut hickory smoked)
  • 1/3 c. raw organic honey
  • 1/2 c. stone ground mustard
  • 3 T. apple cider vinegar
  • sea salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper

First, preheat the oven to 400*F and prepare a pan.  I suggest lining a sheet pan with tin foil and then placing a rack on top of it.  I also suggest putting about 1/8″ of water in the sheet pan because the bacon grease will drip down and the water will prevent your house from smelling like it’s about to catch on fire.  Season the chicken with sea salt, ground pepper, and garlic powder.  Then, take pieces of bacon and wrap it around the chicken tenders like so:

Bacon-Wrapped-Chicken-Tenders-4

Combine the honey, stone ground mustard, a dash of cayenne pepper, and the apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Brush the glaze onto the chicken and then cook them for about 13 minutes.  Then, flip the chicken and glaze the opposite side and bake for an additional 13 minutes.  Don’t be scared if the edges of the bacon are getting crispy or even burn, that’s fine!  If things get out of hand, you can always remove the extra burned pieces! It’s worth the mini panic attack, I swear…

Bacon-Wrapped-Chicken-Tenders

TGIF!

12 Sep

I freaking owned this week!

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I am hoping to do a full overview on Monday, so instead of hearing some shit come out of my mouth look at what I put in it this week:

Loaded-Banana-Breakfast

Loaded bananas for breakfast…I’m indecisive so one has sunflower seed butter, raisins, and pecans and the other one has Justin’ Chocolate Hazelnut butter.  I don’t love hazelnut butter, but I had to toss my Mara Natha almond butter after the recall.  First world problems y’all.

Justins-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter

I am usually all sweet potato all the time, but this week I was craving russet potatoes.  I grabbed 2 when I was pillaging the sweet potato section at Giant Eagle and I have a ton of frozen broccoli so this made sense for lunch a few times this week:

Broccoli-Cheese-Stuffed-Potato

And you know I had to take advantage of pumpkin spice being back – I allowed myself to get a dairy-based drink one time!  It would be more often, but Starbucks has yet to switch over to organic, GMO-free milk.  Which is a little crazy considering how much they charge per cup…I swear I’m parked and not driving while taking this picture! ;)

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And then I forgot to take pictures of everything else. The end.

Remember that time I convinced myself that I could just workout at home and I would totes be fine?

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Since the Crunch Fitness that opened down at the Waterfront has early morning and late night hours, PLUS they now offer a Barre-based class I decided to bit the bullet.  You gotta do what you gotta do, right?  More on this later.

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Also, last night for the Steeler game we had a puppy play date with the emojii dog, Miss Vivien Leigh.  She is that ball of white fluff underneath Bea.  I could not get the girl to sit still long enough for a pic!   She is absolutely adorable and I think you should go follow her on Instagram.  Liberty supervised my flip flop and the puppy chaos.

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